When Lucky Smith hears a baby cry off in the trees, she goes to see what's wrong. She finds a scared and hungry infant-- and the body of his mother lying close by. Sergeant John Winters of the Trafalgar, British Columbia, police force begins his investigation with the help of Lucky's daughter, Probationary Constable Molly Smith. When the two start checking with the people who knew the dead girl, they learn that this isn't a simple case of drug overdose. Something else is going on, but until they discover the girl's true identity, it's going to be very difficult indeed to find out just what that something is. While they're knocking on doors and asking questions, Lucky Smith has appointed herself the child's foster mother, and Winters' wife Eliza is being courted by a controversial new resort's owners to become the face of the place.
It had been over a year since I'd read the first book in Vicki Delany's Molly Smith series, and I wondered how quickly I would fall back into the setting and how well I would remember the characters and their backgrounds. I should not have wondered. From the first page, I fell back into Trafalgar as if I'd never left. Never once did I furrow my brow in an attempt to remember a character. As anyone knows who reads a lot of mystery series, this can be a rather rare occurrence. For me to have such excellent recall after a long period of time means one thing: Vicki Delany is an excellent writer who knows how to create memorable characters and settings. (Actually it means two things, the second being that I shouldn't allow so much time to elapse between books in such a good series!)
I like the fact that John Winters has a good feeling about Molly and takes the time to work with her and to be a mentor. His experience is going to help her make the right choices in the future. Another (very) refreshing fact about Winters is that he can work with Molly and not lust after her which often seems to be obligatory on both page and screen. Actually, he's even more remarkable because he's happily married to a beautiful woman who's been at the very top of the modeling profession. John and Eliza have been able to have such disparate careers and a very close and loving relationship for years.
Molly is still learning as a police officer, and still grieving for her dead fiance. She doesn't have a car, and she still lives with her parents-- two hippies who came to Canada in the 1970s to evade the draft. (However, I think Molly's living arrangements will be changing soon after reading this book!) Her parents built a successful business and raised two children, but their once close relationship is changing. Molly's dad seems to have mellowed a bit over the years while Molly's mother, Lucky, is every bit the protesting firebrand she was as a teenager. One of the many things that will keep me reading this series is the relationship between Molly's parents.
I've talked a lot about the characters in this book, and that's because they're so well drawn that I feel as if I know them all. But a mystery cannot be a good mystery unless it has a plot to match the setting and the characters, and Valley of the Lost does. With the reveal of a few early clues, I thought I had figured out the background of the dead girl. I was nowhere close-- and I like that. The plot line involving the resort and its owners had its own surprises, and I love how it ties in with other aspects of the plot.
If you're a fan of memorable settings, fascinating characters, plots that keep you guessing, and you tell me that you've never read one of Vicki Delany's Molly Smith books, I have only one question for you...
What are you waiting for? Track these books down and start reading them. You're in for a treat!
Valley of the Lost by Vicki Delany
Poisoned Pen Press © 2009
Paperback, 291 pages
Police Procedural, #2 Constable Molly Brown mystery
Source: Purchased as an eBook from Barnes and Noble.